It’s amazing some of the value audio products that are available to consumers these days. One example is the active noise cancelling earphones I tested recently, the OVC H15. I was quite impressed by those, especially considering their $43.99 price tag. Today I’m looking at a similar product but this one costs even less! Meet the DECOKA DK100 active noise cancelling headphone and read on to see if it’s worthy of your attention.
DECOKA is actually a subsidiary of Linner. Linner is an audio company specializing in producing active noise cancelling earphones. You can check out their products here.
This product was provided for the purpose of an honest review. I’m not affiliated with the company and all observations and opinions here are my own.
The DECOKA DK100 is compact, dark grey box with a silhouette image of the earphones on the front and some specifications on the back. Inside the box is a cardboard sheet that lists the box contents. Under that is the earphones, seated in soft, black foam. Finally, under the foam are the accessories which include:
DECOKA DK100 earphone
multi-language user manual
3 x pairs silicone eartips (S, M, L)
3 x pairs silicone ear hooks
USB charging cable
fabric carry pouch
Okay, so far so good. It’s pretty much what you would expect to find in the box. The tips and hooks are of good quality and the carry pouch is always a welcome addition. First impressions are good. Everything is laid out and presented very nicely.
Build, comfort and isolation
The DECOKA DK100 has a fairly common housing style, similar to the 1More Triple Driver and Magaosi BK50. It has a cone-shaped housing with an angled nozzle. The nozzle is a little unusual as it is oval shaped, rather than the usual circular shape. I’m not sure what the purpose of that is but it does make things more difficult if you want to use third party eartips.
On the back end of the housing is a metal backplate with the DECOKA branding in white text. Just above the text is a small vent or perhaps it’s the microphone for the noise cancelling system, I’m not sure. The rest of the housings are plastic but look and feel well constructed and durable. There’s another vent near the base of the nozzle.
Moving onto the cable, it’s immediately apparent that the DECOKA DK100 has a pretty good one. It’s a rubber coated wire that’s quite thick but very supple and doesn’t suffer from any stickiness. It doesn’t have any kinks or memory whatsoever and would put the cables of many higher priced earphones, or even standalone cables to shame.
At the top of the cable’s right side, is a plastic, three-button control with microphone. The buttons have a nice tactile click and worked perfectly with my Android smartphone.
Down toward the end of the cable is the disc-shaped ANC unit. It’s a little bulky but is lightweight and positioned close to the plug so it’s not really bothersome at all. On one side is the Micro USB charging port which is hidden behind a rubber gasket. Just near the USB port is the On/Off switch that activates the ANC. When the unit is switched on there’s a tiny green LED indicator that lights up in the middle of the disc.
Opposite the power switch is the Monitor button which activates an interesting feature. Basically what it does is it lowers the level of your music and slightly amplifies the sounds of your surroundings. This is very handy if someone is talking to you (assuming you want to hear them) or if, for example, you’re on public transport and want to hear announcements. Rather than fumbling with volume controls or trying to find the pause button you can simply press the monitor button to hear what’s going on around you. It’s a really cool and useful feature. How much do these cost again?
Comfort is very good and comparable to other IEMs with a similar design. The earphones are lightweight and do not have any sharp edges so you should be able to wear them for hours on end.
Noise isolation is pretty good, again about average for something like this. There is some microphonics present which can be mitigated by using a shirt clip but it’s not really bothersome as is.
Active Noise Canceling & battery
The ANC on the DECOKA DK100, to put it simply works very well. Like the majority of ANC devices, it is most effective at attenuating lower frequency sounds. In particular, it’s very adept at masking low, droning sounds like fans, the hum of machinery or engine noises. If there are people talking nearby you’ll still hear them but the voices will be muted significantly.
I did notice that with ANC turned on you will still hear a good deal of wind noise if it’s gusty outdoors but for the most part, the function does a great job. It would be very handy on a noisy bus or in an airplane.
Battery life is rated at 20 hours of playback/talk time. I didn’t measure it directly but have been using these all week for several hours per day and it’s still going strong.
The DECOKA DK100 has a fairly balanced sound with an elevated bass and a slightly warm tilt. Sound with ANC on is almost identical to when it is turned off and that’s a bonus IMO. With ANC on the overall levels increase slightly and the midrange gains a little more body and vocals move forward a little in the mix. Overall it’s better than expected considering the price and added functions.
Bass is boosted but I wouldn’t call the DK100 a “bassy” earphone. It’s well controlled and carries a good amount of weight without being boomy or bloated. There’s plenty of impact; but only when needed. Listening to E40’s “Club On Lock” there’s plenty of bass on hand but it doesn’t intrude on the midrange. Likewise, the sub-bass in that track is heard and felt and carries a nice amount of rumble without being overbearing. In Hilltop Hoods’ “Chris Farley” the bass is already “thick” with a soft edge but the DK100 reproduces it nicely and keeps things tame with a reasonably fast decay.
Into the midrange, the DECOKA DK100 again shows its competence with natural tonality and smooth vocals. Some inherent warmth in the lower midrange makes male vocals rich and full yet at the same time, they don’t sound coloured or veiled. Despite a mild V-shaped signature, the mids don’t come across as being recessed or overpowered by the bass. Acoustic guitars sound great as do orchestral string instruments, the DK100 being adept at reproducing resonance. This makes it a great earphone for albums like Jeremy Soule’s “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”. To sum up, the mids are smooth and natural.
There are some airiness and energy to be found here but the treble is polite and doesn’t become sibilant or harsh. Clarity is good for something in this price range and the highs extend well, adding some sheen and harmonics which open up the soundstage and give a sense of space while at the same time sprinkling on some extra detail. Overall the treble is another area where the DK100 scores strongly.
The stage on the DK100 is good, even with ANC on. It spreads out in the front of the headspace as well as to the sides and positional cues are also solid. These earphones don’t make you feel closed in but present a nice space for your music to breathe in and there’s a sufficient degree of separation between elements.
The midrange on the H15 is thinner but is more resolving and picks up more small details. The treble sounds a little artificial compared to the DK100. Bass is done well and not overblown on either of these. ANC has a similar degree of effectiveness on both of these earphones as well.
The H15’s biggest advantage over the DECOKA DK100 is that it has 3 times the battery life at a whopping 60 hours. The DK100, however, has the added Monitor feature which is really useful and the cable is of better quality.
The DECOKA DK100 is yet another great, budget earphone. The build is solid, as is the battery life. Active Noise Canceling works very well and the Monitor function is a handy bonus to have. Then there is the sound, which is really solid and unlike some other products, the audio quality is as good with the ANC on as it is with it off.
My only gripe is the oval-shaped nozzles which make tip rolling more hit and miss. I’d prefer to see a regular circular shaped barrel. But that’s a minor complaint about a product that I can easily recommend to anyone looking for a cheap Active Noise Canceling earphone for themselves or as a gift for someone else.